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Family lost $17,000 to scammer impersonating Marine

by Diana Zoga

KMOV.com

Posted on February 28, 2012 at 9:15 PM

Updated today at 5:53 AM

(KMOV) -- Charlene Simons says the man on the other end of the phone sounded just like her grandson, Wayne.  The caller said Wayne was in trouble, trapped overseas, and need cash immediately.  Wayne is an active duty Marine and Simons says the caller seemed to know details about him and their family.

"He acted like him, sounded like him, he knew things that made me totally believe it," said Simons.

Simons and her husband wired $2,526, believing they were sending it to their grandson.

However, the calls kept coming.  Each time, the caller added an elaborate twist to the story to convince the Simons that their grandson was in danger unless they sent more money.

The caller also said that the Simons couldn't tell anyone about this, citing that it was an order from the military.

Over the next several says, the Simons would wire money seven more times for a total of around $17,000 - including wire transfer fees.

By Tuesday, the Simons decided to confide in their son who realized his parents were the victims of a scam.

"It's very difficult physically and mentally and emotionally.  It destroys you," explained Simons.

The family reported the scam to Belleville Police.  The Secret Service says it can investigate "significant losses" and the FBI asks victims to report these types of crimes.  However, the reality is most victims never see that money again.  The scammers live in another country and use temporary phone numbers to communicate with their victims.  Once they get the money, they're gone.

In similar scams, the caller will often contact someone at random and trick the victim into giving up information about a family member.  For example, the scammer will dial a random number and say, "Grandma, it's me" in hopes that the other person will answer and provide a name.

Charlene Simons says that wasn't the case this time.  She says the scammer knew information about her grandson.

William Simons, Charlene's son, says that Wayne does have a Facebook page, but doubts that anyone could mine much information from it.

"He doesn't post anything about where, what he was doing in Afghanistan, where he was at, what his deployment schedule is. None of that," said William Simons.

The family is asking the Marine Corps to investigate.  In the meantime, they're hoping other families learn from their loss.

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